Pole Lathe Notes-3

Well the leather sewing machine belt drive cord gave up the ghost.  A little disappointing that it only lasted about three weeks of moderate use.  Rather than waste my remaining leather cord, I made a trip to the Big Box and bought a fifty foot hank of 7mm solid braid polyester cord.  I let you know how this stuff holds up.

This next bit is about an accessory.  Once I started using this lathe it became immediately apparent that it would be impossible to turn short lengths of wood or oddly shaped pieces.  There would be no area on which the drive cord would run in those instances.  What I needed was a drive mandrel that would serve to accommodate the cord and transfer that energy to the workpiece.

After doing a bunch of searching online, I came up empty.  There is plenty of information to be found on creating a drive mandrel for bowl turning on a pole lathe, but practically nothing about a mandrel that was independently supported from the actual workpiece.  So I did a little head scratching and sketching and came up with an idea that seemed promising.

My idea is essentially the same as the drive pulley on a typical treadle (flywheel) lathe except I only need to have a bearing to support the end of the mandrel.  There is no need for thrust bearings.  The existing dead centers continue to serve in that capacity.  In use, the drive mandrel and the workpiece are “pinched” between the existing dead centers.  The bearing mounted on a removable puppet serves to support the juncture of the mandrel and workpiece.

So I ordered a 1-1/2″ bore flange mount bearing and a 1MT drive center off of fleabay.

The mandrel I turned from hard maple.  I sleeved each end of the mandrel with copper to prevent splitting and add durability.  A 1-1/4″ copper slip coupling has a 1.9ish outside diameter and was a friction fit to the bearing once I added a shim fashioned from aluminum tape.  The 1MT drive center was installed in a stepped hole same as the dead centers.

The tricky bit was getting everything to line up along the same centerline.  Time and patience paid off and everything lines up reasonably well.

The thing works great!  The bearing is new and arrived somewhat stiff, so it takes a little more spring and little more effort to push the foot board.  The bearing is beginning to loosen with use though.  I also needed to put together a smaller tool rest.  The new one is about 5″ wide and utilizes the same locking base as the the large one.

Now I can turn just about any length of wood I want.

A short clip taken before the drive cord swap.

Notes 2 Greg Merritt

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Garden Dibber-Lathe Project

Like most things in hand work, no amount of reading or watching of videos can teach you to turn wood on a lathe.  At some point you have to start putting tool to wood.  Only then can your hand and mind begin to build the connections that are need to actually use a lathe efficiently.  I don’t know about you, but there is only so much random turning I can as practice before it becomes boring and thus less conducive to learning.  I need to have something at stake.  I need to have the risk of failure or the lure of success in order to fully engage in the process.

Knowing that I would be teaching myself to use the lathe I started looking for lathe projects that would help me along the way.  Magazine articles and videos are great, but without actual interaction you are still on your own.  So I searched for projects that would progressively challenge my burgeoning skills.  Abject failure sucks and can be discouraging, especially when your on your own.  Therefore, the beginning projects needed low risk of failure and a high probability of success.  One other wrinkle is that I wanted projects that would be useful.  This brings me to my first project, the Garden Dibber.

The Garden Dibber is essentially a fancy sharpened stick of a known length with additional indicating marks of distance.  It can be used to establish the spacing of plantings and also create a hole for planting at the desired depth.  According to some sources the history of the dibber traces back to Roman times.

 

The Garden Dibber is a great beginner project.  It requires roughing out, tapering, incising lines at exact locations.  The surface needs to be smoothed and the handle portion can made simple or as complex as you want.  None of the steps are critical to its function (a graduated pointy stick), so risk of failure is low.

I started by roughly shaping a billet octagonal at the shavehorse with my drawknife.  I could also have done the same at the workbench with a plane.  You can turn square stock directly on the pole lathe, but the sharp corners are hard on the drive cord.

One of the quirks of this lathe is that the drive cord wants to run at the end of the workpiece only.  I can move it slightly over by angling the treadle, but it is much more efficient to simple flip the workpiece end for end to work the entire length.  I could also use a longer blank and designate one end to be the pulley.  I have done this, but it generates a waste piece.  Since I’m frugal, I’ll use a smaller blank and flip it.  Anyway, here is the blank roughed round.

Next, a little layout to delineate the overall length, the handle and where to start the taper.

After the taper is turned, I laid out the 1″ graduations.

REVISED 04/20/17 The drawing above is representative of the traditional shape for planting seeds and such with a strong taper to a sharpish point.  The taper can be varied to suit.  I’m making this and other dibbers with a more gradual taper.  Most people I know who have gardens don’t plant from seed.  They use starter plants and thus need a large hole.

The lines were cut in with a skew chisel.

Then I flipped the workpiece and shaped the handle.

I used a piece of MIG welding wire with toggle handles installed on it to burn (it’s not a Hillbilly Daiku project without wood burning) in the lines that I had incised with the skew.  Pressure and friction does the trick.

The lathe work is done.  All that is remains is to saw off the waste and shape the ends with chisel, file and sandpaper.

I wiped on a coat of BLO and called it done.  This was my third (middle) attempt at this project.  My first try is on the left and the second run is on the right.  I can see some improvement and I’m becoming more comfortable with the tools.

I think the Garden Dibber was a good first project on the lathe.  Heck, I can see cranking these out every now and again for practice and gift giving.  It’s a relaxing way to spend an hour in the shop and there is almost no way to fail.

Greg Merritt

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Pole Lathe Notes-2

The pole lathe takes a little getting used too.  Even more so since I’m trying to learn to use it and learn to turn simultaneously.  It took me a couple of hours to develop a rhythm and feel for the pumping action.  It proved to be a much more relaxed rhythm than I had imagined it would be and there is a good bit of feedback from the lathe and the work to guide you.  One element of this lathe that has proven quite useful is the adjustable double spring pole configuration.  I quickly took to adjusting the tension on the springs to match the type of turning I was trying to do.  Heavier tension for roughing out and lighter tension for more detailed work.  It takes only seconds to reach down and slide the connecting strap to change the spring tension. Continue reading

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Pole Lathe Notes-1

This will be a first in a series of ongoing post as I learn to use the spring pole lathe.  These posts will be mostly for my own journaling purposes, but it may prove useful to others as well.

When I finally made the decision to build a lathe, I agonized over which design to build.  I knew that I wanted a human-powered version though.  So the first major decision was spring pole or treadle? Ultimately I chose to build Roy Underhill’s version of a German double spring pole lathe due to its portability, simplicity of construction and the fact that it is a self-contained unit.  My build process of a modified version of Underhill’s original is covered in a five-part series beginning here.  Since Underhill still derives income (books, magazine articles, classes) and, as to my knowledge, has not made these plans free to the public, the series is just an overview of my build experience.  In short, I built a lathe.

Now I have to learn to use the thing.  Especially daunting since I have never used a lathe of any kind, human or electric powered.  Well, there was an attempt at building a lathe about twenty years ago that involved pallet wood, a garage door spring and, very nearly, severe property damage from launching said garage door spring when the cord broke.  Anyway, with this design of lathe I had a couple of concerns, the pivot arm and the loose foot board.

In every video I have watched of this style lathe in action the pivot arm looks to swing dangerously close the operators head.  It also looked like it may pose as a constant distraction in my peripheral vision.  I’m happy to report that neither concern was warranted.  When using the lathe I am blissfully unaware of the pivot arm.  Nor have I whacked myself in the head with it.

The loose foot/treadle board proved to be somewhat more problematic.  My findings don’t seem to be unique in this regard.  There are several folks who seem to have had the same experience and many creative solutions can be found on the internet.  The majority of which add a good bit of weight and are bulky.  Ultimately sacrificing a degree of portability and versatility.

The problem is keeping the thing in place during use.  In use you place your stationary foot at the pivoting end of the foot/treadle board and pump away with your other foot.  What I found is that the thing tends to walk away during use unless you have the perfect angle of push with your other foot.  I found it quite frustrating to chase the thing around.  I needed a simple way of keeping it in place.  Another issue was that the return was a bit sluggish no matter the tension on the springs.  This told me that the foot/treadle board was simply too heavy (see photo above).

Ultimately my solution ended up being quite simple.  The treadle/foot board was trimmed to a triangular shape.  This made it much lighter, but still stiff enough to do its job. To keep the thing from wandering around in use, I drilled a hole and tied a scrap of leather to the pivot end. In use, I can place my stationary foot on the leather and pin the foot/treadle board in place while still maintaining the ability to swing the end of the foot/treadle board left or right.  This allows me to adjust where the drive cord is riding on the workpiece as well as preserve the lathes portability.  Now I can concentrate on learning to turn.

There is a lot more to come.

Greg Merritt

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Spring Pole Lathe-Part 5-Complete

At the conclusion of my last post on the spring pole lathe I had just begun work on the tool rest.  The basic structure was complete.  All it needed was the finishing touches.  So the next day after work I installed a steel wear strip and completed the shaping. Continue reading

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Spring Pole Lathe-Part 4

My goal was to have a functioning lathe by the end of this weekend.  As progress was made over the past week I became confident that my goal would be met.  Alas, the weekend has come to a close and finds me still short of a completed lathe.  I’m really, really close though.  So close that it was hard to put down the tools and shutdown the shop this evening.  But it is better to stretch out the project by a few days than to make some silly mistake because I’m too tired.  Anyway… Continue reading

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Spring Pole Lathe-Part 3

My day in the shop didn’t go as I has planned.  It’s not that anything went wrong, but I had gotten the order of operations a little out of order.  Originally I was going to cleanup the uprights and chop the mortises for the rail wedges.  As I was about to plane off all of my layout lines it dawned on me that I had better cut and fit the pivot arm first. Continue reading

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